By Andy Katz
FOX Sports College Basketball Analyst
The first weekend of 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament was chaotic, emotional and wild – exactly what fans need, want and want.
The reigning national champions are gone. Three No. 1 seeds are still alive in Gonzaga, Arizona and Kansas, with the top two pushed to the limit before winning in their respective second-round matchups.
The Big Ten had nine teams on the field, but only two – Purdue and Michigan – survived to make the Sweet 16.
The SEC was left with just one team in Arkansas after three of the Final Four favorites — Kentucky, Auburn and Tennessee — pulled out.
And the best conference in America still has – well, read on below.
Here are my top 10 sightings from the first weekend.
1. Most Surprising Result: #15 St. Peter’s vs. #2 Kentucky, Round of 16
The Peacocks have completed arguably the biggest upset…ever. Of course, No. 16 UMBC over No. 1 Virginia in 2018 will go down as the very first 16 over a 1. But I’d say the Cavaliers were without top defenseman De’Andre Hunter and Baltimore Public School. The county is not as far from Virginia as St. Peter’s is from Kentucky. The comparisons are endless. It was a true David versus Goliath in terms of facilities, coaching salaries, student body, and overall talent on the field. And yet, the Peacocks won 85-79 in overtime. Player of the Year nominee Oscar Tshiebwe scored 30 points and caught 16 boards and the Wildcats still lost. The Peacocks held Kentucky to under 30% shooting, while St. Peter’s shot over 50%. Daryl Banks III scored 27 points and Doug Edert scored 20 off the bench. It was probably the least upset in the first round outside of 16 to 1. Still shocking days later.
2. Better finish: our Lady 89, Rutgers 87, 2OT, First Four
An offensive rebound and a layup from Paul Atkinson Jr. with 1.4 seconds to go propelled the Irish to a grueling and thrilling victory over the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers’ Ron Harper Jr., who had been hitting big shots all season, netted a 3-pointer with 22 seconds left. The Scarlet Knights had defended Notre Dame well in Blake Wesley’s last practice, but failed to put a body on Atkinson and suffered the consequences. The 11-seeded pair put on a tremendous game.
3. Best moment: Michigan head coach Juwan Howard hugging and consoling a sob Kennedy Chandler
The 11. Wolverines seed upset the 3-seeded Vols in the second round at Indianapolis. But during the handshake line, Howard and Chandler met and Chandler collapsed in his arms. The touching moment was emotional, raw and genuine. Chandler performed with Howard’s son, Jett, so there was a pre-existing relationship.
Howard, who was maligned for his slap in the face of Wisconsin assistant Joe Krabbenhoft last month – which earned him a five-game suspension – has shown his true character. The day was filled with emotional hugs for Howard with former Fab Five teammates Jalen Rose, Chris Webber and Ray Jackson in attendance.
4. Most important performances: Drew TimmeGonzaga
Timme scored 21 of 25 points in the second half to lead Gonzaga past Memphis, 82-78, in the second round at Portland. The Zags were down 10 at halftime and were in deep trouble. But Timme’s motivational tactics off the field and his dominance on the field against the Tigers’ rotating greats Jalen Duren, DeAndre Williams and Malcolm Dandridge proved invaluable. Timme was a second-round All-American. He wanted the Zags in their seventh straight Sweet 16 appearance.
5. Most disappointing team: Iowa
The Big Ten Tournament Champions were a trending Final Four pick (by me among many) due to the way they won the conference tournament last week. They also have one of the best players in the country and a National Player of the Year nominee in Keegan Murray. And yet, the Hawkeyes met a hot 10 Atlantic champion in Richmond and lost 67-63 in the dreaded 12-5 game. The Hawkeyes had their chances but couldn’t stop the Spiders and Jacob Gilyard when it mattered most. It was a disappointing end to a wonderful final month of the season for Iowa.
6. Best Sweet 16 Match: No. 8 North Carolina against #4 UCLAEastern Region
The Tar Heels had a 25-point lead over No. 1 seed Baylor before winning in overtime. RJ Davis and Armando Bacot caused a stir. It was the same for Brady Manek, before being expelled due to a flagrant 2. The Tar Heels host a UCLA squad that ran away from Saint Mary’s on Saturday in Portland. The key will be whether or not Jaime Jaquez Jr. will play after injuring his ankle late in the win over the Gaels. Tyger Campbell was clutch for the Bruins and the defense was stifling against the Gaels.
7. Most Vulnerable Remainer #1: Gonzaga
The Zags found second gear against Memphis to win in Portland – but there were some concerns. The size and strength of the Tigers bothered Gonzaga. Arkansas isn’t as big but can disrupt them on the Sweet 16 perimeter. But facing Duke again could pose a threat — the same one that was a problem in November in Las Vegas. The Blue Devils have the size to match Gonzaga with Mark Williams and Paolo Banchero. Texas Tech could also be a real problem due to its ability to lock down teams defensively.
8. Best Conference: Big 12
Of course, Baylor lost. But Kansas looked extremely impressive. Texas Tech did too. Iowa State shocked Wisconsin. And TCU wiped out Seton Hall. And the Horned Frogs gave Arizona a big scare before losing in overtime to San Diego. Texas also did well against Purdue. The Big 12 was the best conference all season and placed three teams in the Sweet 16 at Kansas, Texas Tech and Iowa State.
9. Upset Alert: Michigan Completed Villanova
Don’t be surprised if this game is closer or ends in a win for Wolverines. They’re this season’s UCLA: a brand name that’s catching on as a double-digit seed. Michigan played its best game of the season against Tennessee and the Wildcats will have their hands full with Hunter Dickinson.
10. National Champion: My pick was Arizona. I don’t change it.
The Wildcats had their test, almost cut by TCU. But Christian Koloko and Bennedict Mathurin stepped up. The Wildcats continue to be a nightmare for teams and have the size, strength and defensive prowess to win four more games.
Andy Katz is a longtime college basketball writer, analyst, and broadcaster. He can be seen on the FOX Sports and Big Ten Network platforms, as well as March Madness and NCAA.com, and he hosts the “March Madness 365” podcast. Katz worked at ESPN for nearly two decades and, before that, at newspapers for nine years.
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